Olson (2004): "People may like to think that they're descended from some ancient group while other people are not. But human ancestry doesn't work that way, since we all share the same ancestors just a few millenniums ago"

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Olson (2004): "People may like to think that they're descended from some ancient group while other people are not. But human ancestry doesn't work that way, since we all share the same ancestors just a few millenniums ago"

Non LDS-writer Steve Olson (an expert in population genetics[1]) wrote:

If anyone living today is descended from Jesus, so are most of us on the planet. That absurd-sounding statement is an inevitable consequence of the strange and marvelous workings of human ancestry...Say you go back 120 generations, to about the year 1000 B.C. According to the results presented in our Nature paper, your ancestors then included everyone in the world who has descendants living today... If Jesus had children (a big if, of course) and if those children had children so that Jesus' lineage survived, then Jesus is today the ancestor of almost everyone living on Earth. True, Jesus lived two rather than three millenniums ago, but a person's descendants spread quickly from well-connected parts of the world like the Middle East...In addition to Jesus...we're also all descended from Julius Caesar, from Nefertiti, from Confucius...and from any other historical figure who left behind lines of descendants and lived earlier than a few thousand years ago. Genetic tests can't prove this, partly because current tests look at just a small fraction of our DNA. But if we're descended from someone, we have at least a chance—even if it's a very small chance—of having their DNA in our cells...People may like to think that they're descended from some ancient group while other people are not. But human ancestry doesn't work that way, since we all share the same ancestors just a few millenniums ago.[2]

Notes

  1. Olson is co-author of a letter to Nature, in which he discusses these ideas in a more technical format. See Douglas L. T. Rohde, Steve Olson, and Joseph T. Chang, "Modelling the recent common ancestry of all living humans," 431 Nature (30 September 2004): 562–566. off-site Olson provides a "semi-technical" description of his findings here.
  2. Steve Olson, "Why We're All Jesus' Children," slate.com (15 March 2006). Last accessed 12 October 2006 (emphasis added). off-site